Deputy Assistant Secretary of State African Bureau Affairs Ambassador Mathew Harrington says there should not be assumptions that the huge level of investments into the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) will be able to continue indefinitely.
Speaking to journalists after he toured the DREAMS Centre in Lusaka’s Kalingalinga compound, Ambassador Harrington said the United States aid and developmental assistance under PEPFAR to African countries, including Zambia, should not be assumed to continue indefinitely.
Ambassador Harrington, therefore, added that it was important for African governments to have conversations on how they undertook financial and problematic responsibility for PEPFAR programmes.
“One of the things I have responsibility for is working with the global Aids office in Washington (D.C.) on PEPFAR funding and I have worked on a number of countries where we do PEPFAR. It is a project that is doing incredible work in Zambia…I think since 2003 when PEPFAR started, US $4 billion has been invested in PEPFAR in Zambia, with collaborative efforts with us, the government and civil society and the progress made has been amazing and incredible and as a result of that work, Zambia stands on the verge of epidemic control by the end of 2020. So, that is an amazing accomplishment! I think the challenge of that part will be how does Zambia with our support and our collaboration ensure that the progress made is not lost and they begin to fall backward. So, I think questions around sustainability happening now are really important. Particularly, one million Zambians are on ART (Anti-Retro Viral) now and how do you ensure that that support for them continues probably the time when resources will be declining? But congratulations to Zambia for getting to this point for 17 years, people are living full healthy lives, HIV-positive women are having HIV-negative children there is an amazing story to tell and we have done it together,” Ambassador Harrington explained.
“PEPFAR started in 2003 and PEPFAR funds have been dedicated to countries where there is progress being made, where we are having an impact. That will continue to be the case, but you can never ensure…this is beyond Zambia; this is PEPFAR as a whole. I think the American taxpayers have been very generous, the US Congress has been very generous, this is a programme that receives very strong support, but I think you cannot assume that incredible level of investment will be able to continue indefinitely. So, I think it is important to have conversations around the importance of government and that is the conversations that has been happening for at least five or six years around the importance of governments that have been PEPFAR recipients; how do they undertake financial and problematic responsibility for PEPFAR programmes and it’s in all countries that have received PEPFAR assistance? The PEPFAR budget here is one of the highest in the world and that is because the HIV challenge is significant so I think we are pleased with the progress that is being made. PEPFAR funds don’t go to government, they go through implementing partners.”
And when asked when Zambia would likely receive a new Ambassador to replace Daniel Foote who was recalled, Ambassador Harrington said he did not have information on the matter.
“That process takes a while; that is a White House decision and it’s the Senate’s decision so I wish I had information to share about the timing when you will have a new Ambassador, but I don’t, unfortunately. When we have the information, we will certainly share with you,” said Ambassador Harrington.
Earlier in the day, Ambassador Harrington visited the Women’s Entrepreneurship Access Centre (WEAC) where he encouraged female entrepreneurs to work with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry to take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that provided trade preferences for duty-free into the US for certain goods.